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The Ironman Triathlon is a grueling competition between industrial geniuses wearing high-tech tin suits, sponsored by the Marvel Comics Group. It consists of three events done in a fixed order and without stopping to rest or do other things that bodies might want to do:
- Stunt-flying directly from Afghanistan to New York City without colliding with commercial airliners or causing them to change course.
- Boxing to the death against multiple career criminals.
- Weightlifting, using only your repulsor rays.
The idea for the original Ironman Triathlon was devised by billionaire playboy Tony Stark, based on having a garage full of previous-model tin suits and no way to either fight evil or make a profit off them, but a lot of bad guys who wanted to wear them. Stark envisaged a three-event competition between contestants who would rent his old Iron Man suits. The motto would be, Brag for the rest of your life! — as some athletes needed more encouragement than Stark did to do so.
Navy Commander John Collins played a key role in noting athletes, especially cyclists, who seemed especially fit. On meeting Stark, Collins was doubly impressed at Stark's physique, as he was unaware that Stark's chest was safely sunken inside his tin suit. Collins proposed the first competition, but unfortunately, found himself a premature competitor and the first victim of Stark's ego and his repulsor rays after quipping, "Whoever finishes first, we'll call him the Iron Man." Collins' widow Judy Collins fell in with Stark and, of course, went on to top the charts with her hit, Both Sides Now.
Conducting the race with no marketing at all attracted an impressive 50 athletes, and led to the equally lethargic strategy responsible for the success of Uncyclopedia. The first triathlon, in 1979, was won by a man from San Diego. A woman placed sixth, but she was from Boston and earned the title "Ironwoman" by accusing the other contestants of being haters. The organizers planned to turn the triathlon into something less strenuous, perhaps an Easter Egg hunt, to attract more competitors, but Barry McDermott of Sports Illustrated wrote a macho, ten-page article about the grueling contest that shamed them into keeping the same format.
A milestone in the contest's marketing occurred in 1982. College kid Julie Moss competed to gather research for her Ph.D. in physiology. She acquired valuable data on the limits of human endurance by expiring just yards from the finish line. Although Kathleen McCartney passed her to become that year's "Ironwoman," Moss crossed the finish line, courtesy of four pallbearers. Her performance was broadcast worldwide, watched by hundreds of trial lawyers, and created the mantra that merely finishing is a victory — a mantra that somehow does not prevent the firing of many hockey coaches the day after their losing season. The publicity attracted 1,000 participants, and a lottery was used to induce another thousand wannabees to do something more hopeful, such as volunteer for a lunar mission.
edit Ironman today
The three-part format of the competition remains unchanged. Winning the Ironman still confers worldwide prestige, and "merely finishing" occasionally gets people at the pub to buy you a drink, though you usually have to listen to a story that it seems could easily be told more succinctly.
In 2013, Ironman piloted the Swim Smart Initiative which brought notable safety-related changes to the format, such as "rest spaces" where athletes can leave the competition, rest, tell jokes, and perhaps sip a martini without incurring a penalty. "Ironman" was changed to "Ironperson" to appease female competitors, and female competitors who happen to be college students have additional "rest spaces" they can retreat to in order to avoid hearing unpleasant political opinions.
Over time, the popularity of the Ironman has grown, and tireless marketeers have organized trademarked logos, mascots, sponsorship deals, a line of clothing and handbags, and an obligatory ladder of "qualifying events," with everything timed to take place on prime-time television on the U.S. East Coast, including heart-warming "human interest" features narrated by lovable former celebrities who had been waiting to die and are delighted to keep their hand in.
The Ironman course record was set in 2011 by Craig Alexander of Australia in 8 hours, 3 minutes. Mirinda Carfrae, also of Australia, holds the women's record at 8 hours, 52 minutes. This state of affairs beats the Boston Marathon, where Kenyans win every year and they don't speak English but you know you need to go up and congratulate them, which is awkward but lets everyone see you don't hold anything against black people. The most notable contestant, however, was Paula Newby-Fraser, who gave her name to the newbie editor of a wiki who doesn't know that you don't indent a paragraph by typing spaces (after a few years in which such people were called "Frasers").
In 2005, the Ironman 70.3 race was initiated. This course is half the length of the regular Ironman course, and its winner is called a Half Ironman, Half Ironwoman, Half Iron Gender Queer, whatever. Half Ironman was chosen over Tin Man, which had Wizard of Oz overtones, and Butter Man, despite its appeal to the typical viewer.